Jonathan Swift

Writer

Born: 30 November 1667
Died: 19 October 1745
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Best known as:

The satirical Irish author of Gulliver's Travels

Jonathan Swift was an Irish writer of English parentage whose fame rests on sharply satirical works that include the novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) and the harshly comic essay A Modest Proposal (1729). Raised in Dublin and a graduate of Trinity College (1685), Swift began writing while working as secretary to diplomat William Temple (1689-99). Ordained by the Church of Ireland in 1694, Jonathan Swift's first published works were tongue-in-cheek church histories, political pamphlets and essays on the ideological differences between the ancients and the moderns. He spent three years in London (1710-13) and was active in Tory politics until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Once back in Ireland, he became a dean at St. Patrick's Cathedral and a champion of Irish liberties. Swift's Drapier's Letters (1724) made him a famous essayist and darn-near Irish hero, and A Modest Proposal, an intentionally ridiculous but well-reasoned essay that suggests feeding the fattened children of the poor to the wealthy, is a classic of modern prose. He also wrote poems, including "Cadenus and Vanessa" (1726) and "Stella's Birthday" (1727), but his light verse is overshadowed by his savageness as a satirist. By the late 1730s he was in ill health, and in 1742 was declared "unsound" of mind and given a guardian. He died in 1745.

Extra credit:

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels was illustrated a century later by French caricaturist J.J. Grandville and has been adapted many times for television and film, including 1939's feature-lenght animated version by Max Fleischer.

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